Wednesday, November 25, 2015

226. Two deluxe copies of "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Part V of The Library of an English Bibliophile was scheduled for auction at Sotheby's yesterday, 24 November. The sale catalogue lists two deluxe copies of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in a vellum binding designed by Charles Shannon (1899).

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
one of 12 copies bound in vellum
The play was published in an edition of 1000 copies. There were also 100 large paper copies printed on Van Gelder Zonen paper, numbered and signed by Wilde, and additionally there were twelve numbered copies on Japanese vellum. These copies were for presentation only.

For sale were number 3, with a handwritten dedication to Robert Ross, dated February 1899, and No. 5, with a dedication to Frances Forbes-Robertson, dated June 1899. The first one contains an autograph letter by Wilde to Ross promising three seats for the opening night of the play. Estimate of that copy was: £160.000-180.000 [it was sold earlier as part of the Jacques Levy collection in 2012; hammer price including buyer's premium was $362.500.] This time the hammer price including buyer's premium was £197.000.

Sotheby's estimate for the other copy (No. 5) was: £50.000-70.000. This copy remained unsold.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
one of 12 copies bound in vellum
In Wilde's bibliography (1914) a few other copies were listed: No. 2 was dedicated to Edward Strangman [this copy was sold by Christie's in 2001, for $60.000], No. 4 was located in the British Museum; No. 10 had been sold by Hodgson's in 1911; in 1912 No. 11 had been sold by Sotheby's from the collection of C. Sebag Montefiore and No. 12 was said to be in the collection of Maurice Schwabe.

Since then copy 9 has been added to the British Library collection, it was acquired from the collection of Lady Eccles.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1899):
No. 9 of 12 copies bound in vellum
Another (?) copy was sold by Whitmore Rare Books in Catalogue 4. No. 10 is now in the J. Harlin O'Connell collection at Princeton University Library.

No. 1 Leonard Smithers (?)
No. 2 Edward Strangman [dedication]
No. 3 Robert Ross [dedication] [formerly in the collection of Jacques Levy]
No. 4 [location:] The British Library
No. 5 Frances Forbes-Robertson [dedication]
No. 6
No. 7
No. 8
No. 9 [location:] The British Library [collection Lady Eccles]
No. 10 [location:] Princeton University Press [collection J. Harlin O'Connell]
No. 11 C. Sebag Montefiore
No. 12 Maurice Schwabe

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

225. Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World (5)

In the previous episodes of my blog, we have established that Oscar Wilde's and Charles Ricketts's collaboration to The Woman's World (edited by Wilde) were not interrelated, that Ricketts did not have to turn to Wilde to get commissions for the magazine, that Wilde did not generously give Ricketts several important commissions, that the drawings for The Woman's World were not the first commissions Ricketts received from Cassell & Company, that Ricketts did not leave the firm or stopped contributing to the magazine when Wilde ended his editorship and left the firm, and, therefore, that no 'affinity between the two men's artistic visions even before their official partnership began' existed in reality.

The last quote came from Petra Clark's fascinating essay on Ricketts and Wilde in connection with The Woman's World. (See Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World (1) for more details.) Despite the fact that there was no early relationship between Ricketts and Wilde, we can see that they were heading in the same direction, and that they were on the same track. It did not take long for Wilde to conclude that Ricketts should design his books, but that decision was prompted by The Dial and not by The Woman's World.

Charles Ricketts, initial for The Woman's World
Ricketts's early drawings have been described as 'hack work', and as Clark points out, this qualification is based on an undeserved dismissal of his skills as a draughtsman. His fusion of Victorian interests with Pre-Raphaelitism, Arts and Crafts ideas, and Symbolist motifs sets his work apart from many anonymous artists. 

Clark writes: 'Like many "hack" artists at the time, Ricketts's work was largely anonymous'. However, when most illustrations in The Woman's World went unacknowledged in the captions, some of these mentioned the artist's names, and the contents pages in the yearly bound up volumes mentioned some of the illustrators as well. The illustrations themselves often contained the artist's initials, and for his earliest commissions Ricketts used his full name: 'C. Ricketts'. By June 1888, Ricketts had changed his signature to a series of monograms with the letters 'C' and 'R', often encapsulated within a small square border. Sometimes his drawings for an article were supplemented with drawings by other, anonymous artists, but even when Ricketts did not use a monogram, it is not that difficult to distinguish his drawings in The Woman's World from those by othersRicketts's drawings betray his affinity with the Aesthetic Movement, and in particular with the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists, whose work he alludes to, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. His drawings are rich in detail (even if these do not serve the story), full of vivacity, movement, and a feel of modernism, even when the subject is Egyptian or Elizabethan. These drawings also 'exhibit the beginnings of his own style and his idiosyncratic approach to illustration' (as Clark writes).

A striking example of the last quality brings his hack work close to his free work. One of the tailpieces published in The Woman's World (May 1889) closely resembles one that Ricketts used in his own magazine The Dial (August 1889). The boundaries between work in commission and work after his own taste were gradually fading.

Clark reminds us of the general practice of illustrating articles and stories in magazines from the 1860s onwards: illustrations, such as chapter initials and frontispieces, anticipated the events, but during the 1880s and 1890s this 'gave way to increasingly conflicted relationships between word and image in illustrated texts', and an 'ironic' failing to match visual expectations 'seems to have become a preferred tactic for him', that is, Ricketts. Here, Clark follows the findings of other scholars, such as Jeromiah Romano Mercurio and Nicholas Frankel.

Charles Ricketts, initial for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)
Petra Clark:

'Ricketts's playful perversity is certainly apparent in the case of B. de Montmorency Morrell's May 1889 piece on the stylistic development of footwear entitled "Boots and Shoes". The images Ricketts supplies to accompany the article refer obliquely to the historical overview provided in the text by making visual some of the things to which the author refers, but in a way that must be deciphered. The decorated initial "T" at the start of Morell's article forms part of a frame that reads "Chrispinus Sutor", the Latin for "Crispin shoemaker", referring to the Roman martyrs of a similar name who later became conflated into the patron saint of shoemakers, Saint Crispin. This frame surrounds a central image of a hooded man with a halo (presumably an interpretation of Saint Crispin), who seems to be fitting an angel with a shoe. Ricketts clearly enjoyed fashioning these sorts of somewhat tongue-in-cheek medieval "illuminations", since he created a similar initial inscribed "Orpheus" in his headpiece for Wilhelmina Munster's June 1888 article "A Woman's Thoughts upon English Ballad Singers and English Ballad Singing". The tailpiece at the end of the "Boots and Shoes"article also calls for a slightly different interpretive approach; it transcends a merely illustrative function in relation to the text as shoes are not really the focus at all - only two or three pairs are even visible. Its image of four couples dancing seems innocuous enough until one more closely examines their dress and notices that the dancers are chronologically mismatched: their clothes all derive from different historical periods, ranging from a fourteenth-century lady wearing one of the "towering peaked and horned headdresses" referred to by the author of the article, to a shepherdess-like "merveilleuse" of the late eighteenth century, who sports an ostentatious bonnet and excess drapery.'

Charles Ricketts, tailpiece for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)
These comments by Clark are based on a thorough examination of the drawings in relation to the text, and as such add to our knowledge of Ricketts's motives, his working methods and his development as an artist.

Ricketts's 'playful irrelevance or irreverence towards the narrative' has been labelled 'collaborative resistance' (by David Peters Corbett) and 'faithful infidelity' by Jeremiah Mercurio. His drawings 'do not lend themselves to easy "reading"', as he intended them to be 'art'. We are fortunate to see that scholars like Petra Clark research Ricketts's work and publish their findings.

Charles Ricketts, illustration for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)

Charles Ricketts, illustration for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)

Charles Ricketts, illustration for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)

Illustration (anonymous, not by Charles Ricketts) for 'Boots and Shoes' (The Woman's World, May 1889)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

224. Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World (4)

Before the publication of his drawings in The Woman's World, edited by Oscar Wilde, the young artist Charles Ricketts had already received several commissions from the publishers Cassell and Company. 

His initial contribution to The Woman's World appeared in June 1888 (volume I, number 8, page 372), illustrating an essay on Elizabethan ballads.

His earliest drawings for Cassell and Company - as far as I know - had appeared more than six months before, in November 1887. These were, however, not his earliest published drawings as he had contributed drawings to an elusive periodical called The Alarum in 1886, while Shannon had made drawings for Judy, a comic journal. They must at least have tried to find more sources of income and may have been lucky with other journals. 

Charles Ricketts's signature, 1887

Cassell's History of England

For years, Cassell had published a multi volume publication on the History of England, and in 1887 the publisher issued volume I of a new edition that was advertised as the Jubilee Edition, referring to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee that was celebrated on 20 June 1887. Since the 1850s Cassell's History of England had been a reliable seller, and the modern parts were updated regularly. The Golden Jubilee was too good an opportunity to pass up. New and revised editions had been advertised before, but large parts of the texts and numerous illustrations were republished in one after another edition.

Earlier, the publishers wrote in several introductions to the newly edited editions that revisions had been made, which may not always have been true: 'The preceding edition of this History has been most carefully corrected and revised, and the Publishers are thankful that the present one has not failed of a success more than equal to that which had attended its predecessor.' New editions came with added volumes: 'Ten years have passed since the publication of the Eight volumes of Cassell’s History of England, which originally ended with a notice of the lamented death of the late Prince Consort. The reader is now presented with a continuation of the narrative nearly to the present day'. Each time, the number of volumes grew. 

By 1887 it was time for another new and revised edition, and for the first time the texts were truly and thoroughly revised from volume I to the end. I compared several passages, and this time, the editors kept word: the texts have been rewritten. The title pages asserted: 'the text revised throughout, and profusely illustrated with new and original drawings by the best artists'.

Volume I ('From the Roman Invasion to the Wars of the Roses') appeared in 1887, volume 2 followed in 1888, volume 3 in 1889. These three volumes contain drawings by Charles Ricketts. Other volumes, without drawings by Ricketts, followed: volume 4 (1891), volume 5 (1892), volume 6 (1893), volume 7 (1894), and volume 8 (1895).

The new edition was issued in monthly parts (prices 7d at Ricketts's time), but I have not been able to locate any of these, as most, of course, must have been bound up. The 'New and Original Drawings' were 'specially executed for this Edition by Leading Artists', as an advertisement in The Publishers' Circular (6 December 1888) brought to the attention of the English booksellers.

Cassell's History of England. Volume I (1887)

The artists of Cassell's History of England

Who were these artists? Their names were not mentioned in the advertisements, nor in the list of illustrations that was published in each volume. Only a few illustrations mention the artist in the captions underneath the image, and these are for reproductions of paintings by John Gilbert (1817-1897) (p. 329), and Henry Gillard Glindoni (1852-1913) (p. 541).

The first volume of the Jubilee edition contained 36 full page illustrations, 162 normal illustrations (half or three quarter page illustrations), and 168 small illustrations. There were portraits of kings and other famous people (18), details of arches, pottery, dress, etc. (42), there were drawings or reproductions of coins, cameo's, rings, manuscripts, and engravings of objects (116), there were views of cities and buildings such as castles (60) and there were maps (2), and many of the illustrations depicted historical scenes (113). The historical drawings were mostly half and full page illustrations, and a large number of  these were signed by the artist.

However, most of the signatures are indecipherable: CDM (?),W[...]oot (?), and only some are signed with the full name of the artist. Most of them are not well known today. According to Cassell and Company the 'Leading Artists' of the day were R. Jones (p. 216), Herbert Railton (1857-1910), and L. Speed (p. 313), or  the French artists Jules Giraudet and Edouard Zier (1856-1924). These artist were at least ten years older than Ricketts, who was born in 1866, and was only 20 years of age in 1886.

Their drawings may not have been made for Cassell at all, because the publishers usually bought cheap blocks for illustrations in France, which explains the presence of French illustrators in a work about the history of England.

Most of the illustrators only made one drawing for this volume. However, Railton had six commissions (p. 261, 404, 413, 436, 480, 593), Zier did ten illustrations (p. 45, 69, 76, 121, 129, 145, 148, 228, 240, 337), Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922) signed seven illustrations (EBL: p. 149, 181, 249, 308, 344, 373, 512), while Wal Paget signed five (WP: p. 185, 193, 312, 525, 605), GB at least four (p. 97, 237, 368, 441), and most of the signed illustrations were the work of Henry Marriott Paget (1856–1936) (HMP: p. 8, 16, 41, 61, 124, 133, 184, 209, 220, 297, 397, 504, 588, and 596). He did fourteen illustrations.

A certain 'C.R.' did eight illustrations, but these were not carried out for the Jubilee edition, as his work appeared in earlier editions from around 1872 onwards. If we compare an earlier edition with the Jubilee edition, we see that most illustrations in the former were anonymous, while a lot of the illustrations in the Jubilee edition have been signed with initials. That was something of a novelty for illustrators at the time, and we can ascertain that a lot of the illustrations in this edition were, indeed, new, although they had not been produced by the most famous artists of the day. 

Anyway, 'C.R.' does not stand for Charles Ricketts, who initially signed his drawings for Cassell with his full name: 'C. Ricketts'. The other artists were at least ten years older than him.

Charles Ricketts, 'Flight of Mathilda from Oxford Castle'

Ricketts's first illustration for Cassell's

Rickett's five illustrations appear on page 176, 357, 381, 401 and 521. These are all signed 'C. Ricketts', and although they are not dated, we may be sure that at least two of them must have been published in the monthly instalments that appeared earlier, possibly in 1886, as drawings on page 213, 216 and 361 are dated 1886 and those on page 413 and 436 are dated 1887. Ricketts probably recieved his commission in 1886. The five included one full page illustration (page 401).

His first illustration, 'Flight of Mathilda from Oxford Castle', was a pen drawing, reproduced on a half page format (101x135 mm, within border: 105x140 mm), illustrating the text on page 176: 'One night in December, when the ground was covered with snow, Matilda quitted the castle at midnight, attended by four knights, who, as well as herself, were clothed in white. The party passed through the lines of their enemies entirely unobserved, and crossed the Thames, which was frozen over.' The escape by the Empress Matilda (c.1102-1167) took place in 1142.

The other illustrations were 'Capture of Bruce’s wife and daughter at Tain', 'Escape of Roger Mortimer from the Tower', 'Black Agnes at the siege of Dunbar Castle', and 'Arrest of the conspirators at Cirencester'. More about these drawings and those for volume 2 and 3 of the Jubilee edition will follow later.

Next week: back to Oscar Wilde's The Woman's World.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

223. Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World (3)

The first contact between Oscar Wilde and Charles Ricketts did not take place because of Ricketts's drawings for the magazine that Wilde edited, The Woman's World. This is sometimes suggested, although there is no evidence for it. Moreover, the practice of editing a journal for a huge firm like Cassell & Company at the end of the 1880s was determined by the business model of the publishers with particular departments for the work in hand. Wilde was appointed literary editor for the magazine in 1888, but he was backed by the art editor, Edwin Bale. Bale was responsible for the selection of drawings, for soliciting illustrators and artists, and for decisions on practical matters, such as format, and fees. Alas, no letters between Ricketts and Bale have come to light so far.

Speculating on the role of Wilde as an editor, Petra Clark (in her essay ''"Cleverly Drawn": Oscar Wilde, Charles Ricketts, and the Art of the Woman's World' (see my two earlier blogs on Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World), concludes that Wilde's involvement in the art direction of the magazine was shallow. However, she states:

'It is easy to imagine why the ambitious young Charles Ricketts would have sent Wilde some drawings that ultimately earned him occasional work for Cassell & Co., but it is unclear what prompted Wilde to generously give a relatively untested and (to him) unknown artist several full-page commissions. What is clear is that by the time Wilde left Cassell & Co., so had Ricketts, as there is no evidence of any drawings by him in the magazine's final year (1889-90) under Fish's editorship. Such a coincidence suggests an affinity between the two men's artistic visions even before their official partnership began.'

As we saw in last week's blog, Wilde was not the editor who gave Ricketts these commissions. And I can add that Ricketts did not leave the publisher, as, from November 1889 onwards, he received commissions for quite a few illustrations for another Cassell magazine, The Magazine of Art. And, in fact, Ricketts made several contributions to the final year of The Woman's World. He drew a headpiece for each of the monthly instalments of 'The Latest Fashions' between November 1889 (Vol. III, No. 25) and July 1890 (Vol. III, No. 33). He did not contribute any full page illustrations, true, but then he had many other publishers waiting for him, including the magazine Atalanta (from December 1888) and The Universal Review (from August 1889), and, with Shannon, he had embarked on a magazine of his own, The Dial that made its first appearance in August 1889.

Ricketts's first illustration for The Woman's World appeared in the June 1888 issue (page 372), that is in volume I, number 8.

Charles Ricketts, illustration for an article by Wilhelmina Munster, in The Woman's World, June 1888, p. 372.
The illustration was a headpiece for an article by Wilhelmina Munster, 'A Woman's Thoughts upon English Ballad-Singers and English Ballad-Singing' (p. 372-374). Based on a pen drawing, the reproduction measured 131x163 mm. It was signed CR. The reproduction was also signed by the engraver, H.K. Davey [?].

If Ricketts had sent in drawings to an editor of The Woman's World, they would not have been addressed to Wilde but to Bale. On the other hand, it may not have been necessary for Ricketts to make a drawing and risking rejection by an editor. He may have received an assignment for a drawing, as he had worked for the publishers before, and the art editors knew his work. Cassell and Company employed a great number of artists for their large range of magazines and copiously illustrated works. As was the custom at the time, these art editors had a waiting room for aspiring artists, who with a portfolio of drawings waited for a call. Ricketts must have visited several of these offices when he tried to earn a living as an illustrator, but the situation at Cassell's was different for him. The drawings for The Woman's World were not the first ones he made for the firm, and that he immediately got several important commissions for the magazine testifies to the trust the art editor had in Ricketts's skills.

What strikes us now is that his illustrations for The Woman's World are much more artistic than the drawings of other contributing artists.

Charles Ricketts, headpiece for 'Decebal's Daughter' by Carmen Sylva in The Woman's World, July 1888
Ricketts's second drawing in The Woman's World shows his ability to illustrate a story, while keeping his own preferences for scenery, costumes, and capricious details. It is a headpiece for 'Decebal's Daughter' by Carmen Sylva, translated by E.B. Mawer (p. [385]-389): a war scene featuring Decebal's daughter Andrada on a fortified tower looking down on the Romans led by Trajan invading the city of Decebal. Nearby is a wooden tower with fighting soldiers, one fallen to the ground, another leaning over the wall to fight. We see an approaching army and the burning city walls. In the lower left is an initial 'T', decorated with a kneeling figure, a sword, a shield and (partly outside the border) a fish; underneath is a small compartment containing a garland. 

Charles Ricketts, initial 'T' for 'Decebal's Daughter' by Carmen Sylva in The Woman's World, July 1888
The other illustrations for the June and July 1888 issues of The Woman's World are neo-Renaissance initials and vignettes, realistic or slightly romantic sketches of buildings and landscapes, portraits after paintings or photographs, reproductions of paintings, drawn impressions of sculptures or other art works, middle-of-the-road illustrations for stories, or static drawings of posing models showing new dresses. Ricketts's illustrations are startlingly different: they show fantasy, and movement, a great feeling for drama (for example in the use of perspective in the Carmen Sylva drawing), and they contain details that are not mentioned in the story.

Charles Ricketts, full page illustration for 'A Lady in Ancient Egypt' by Helen Mary Tirard in The Woman's World, July 1888
The first full page illustration for The Woman's World was: 'The Toilet of a Lady of Ancient Egypt'. It was signed by Ricketts with his monogram CR, and in the 'List of Full-Page Plates' was mentioned: 'Drawn by C. Ricketts'. Other full-page images in this volume (1887-1888) were done by Walter Crane, Paul Destez, and Gordon Browne, who each did one plate, while Ricketts did two. The image contains more than was necessary to illustrate the article: the lady and her dress, attended by three servants in a palace garden with a pond. Added are doves and two cats in order to enhance the intimate, idyllic atmosphere, which we do not find in any of the other illustrations in The Woman's World at the time.

As I said, Cassell & Company knew what they could expect of the young Ricketts - he was 21 at the time of his contributions to The Woman's World. They had given him other earlier assignments for a substantial new publication for which a large number of younger artists made drawings.

See next week's blog.